For your first Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the New Year:
Consider these unethical politicians from Florida, Texas and California…
Unethical Politician A:
California State Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)
Competence, Responsibility, Diligence
Explaining his proposed legislation SB808, dealing with “ghost guns” (that is, home-made weapons) at the California Capitol in Sacramento last week, de Leon held up such a firearm and said, “This right here has the ability with a .30-caliber clip to disperse with 30 bullets within half a second. Thirty magazine clip in half a second.”
This is genuine anti-gun gibberish that could not possibly be uttered with a straight face by anyone even slightly familiar with guns. There is no such thing as a “30-caliber clip;” he is referring to a 30-round magazine. (There is also no such thing as a “30 magazine clip.) “Caliber” refers the measurement of the width of a bullet or the internal diameter of a gun barrel, not what the magazine will hold. And the average rate of fire for a semi-automatic rifle, which is what he was holding, is about 120 rounds per minute, not 3,600 rounds per minute.
Why are legislators who don’t care enough about guns to educate themselves about what they are, how they work and what they are capable of doing, submitting legislation about guns? Because they just know guns are dangerous, and in their infantile, knee-jerk reasoning, that’s all they have to know. The rest is fakery: the legislator is pretending that he has sufficient expertise to be credible on the issue, when he is too lazy and arrogant to do the minimum study necessary to render him qualified to vote on gun regulations, much less author them. This is the equivalent of a legislator who thinks babies are delivered by storks proposing abortion laws.
De Leon is obligated to be a competent legislator, but his presentation amounted to a grunted, “Guns…BAD!“ and nothing more. And the amazing thing is, in California, that’s probably enough. If it isn’t enough, however, his ineptitude will be one reason why: gun advocates are having a field day making him out to be a fool, which, in fact, he is. Actually, his legislation, requiring background checks for those who manufacture their own guns, isn’t unreasonable.
Unethical Politician B:
Joshua Black, (R), Candidate to represent District 68 in the Florida Legislature
Civility, Responsibility, Respect, Honesty
On Martin Luther King’s birthday, Black, an African-American, used Twitter to endorse the proposition that President Obama should be hanged for treason, and he wasn’t speaking hyperbolically. When fellow Republican Chris Latvala incredulously asked in a return tweet if Black was serious, Black replied by tweeting, “Execution is the appropriate punishment for traitors. #BenedictArnold #ReadAmericanHistory #criminalpoliticians.” Black is apparently aspiring to emulate fellow outspoken history ignoramus Michele Bachmann, who has made a habit of such howlers. Benedict Arnold was not executed for treason, but died of natural causes in England, long after the war.
Then Black went to Facebook to give a more detailed justification for seeking President Obama’s life, writing,
“To everyone who was offended that I said that the POTUS should be hanged for treason, this is the man who droned Al-Awaki on “suspicion of terrorism”–not proof–and later killed his 15-year-old son for nothing more than being his son. This is also the man who sought to have Bradley Manning and Eric Snowden executed for treason when they didn’t kill anyone, nor does the US government pretend to believe that they cost any spies their lives. This would be exactly what the President has done to others, and, as Jesus said, “the measure ye mete, it shall be meted to you again.” I make no apologies for saying that the President is not above the People. If ordinary Americans should be executed for treason, so should he. So, don’t stop at impeachment. Remove him. Try him before a jury (the very right that he arbitrarily denied to al-Awaki and his 15-year-old son), and, upon his sure convictions, execute him. Thus has he done, thus it should be done to him.”
This is a misleading, factually wrong, illogical mess.
1. Even if the drone killing of terrorist Al-Awaki was unconstitutional, it was certainly not “treason” by any definition.
2. The terrorist’s son was not targeted, but was accidentally killed with nine others in a drone strike.
3. The President has not advocated the execution of Manning or Snowden, and the crime of treason does not include killing anyone as a necessary element.
4. The United States is governed by its laws, not what Jesus allegedly said.
5. Calling for a criminal trial with a “sure conviction” is unconstitutional and un-American.
In summary, this isn’t politics, but hate, bolstered by dishonesty and ignorance.
Unethical Politician C:
Wendy Davis, Texas State Senator (D)
and Candidate for Governor
Honesty, Candor, Integrity
Seemingly factory-made for political stardom, Wendy Davis became a media star and a feminist hero with her (wildly over-hyped by the abortion-supporting news media) 11-hour filibuster against abortion restrictions in Texas. Now Davis is attempting to parlay her big moment into bigger things, and is running against Republican Gregg Abbott to succeed Rick Perry. Davis and her campaign have relentlessly plugged her “inspiring narrative”:while still a teenager, it goes, Davis married, had a child and divorced. “I had a baby. I got divorced by the time I was 19 years old,” she testified in a recent federal lawsuit over redistricting. “After I got divorced, I lived in a mobile home park in southeast Fort Worth.” As a working mother raising a daughter, Davis enrolled in a local community college. Her website relates, “With the help of academic scholarships and student loans, Wendy not only became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree but graduated first in her class and was accepted to Harvard Law School.” She won election to the Fort Worth City Council and then the Texas Senate. “I’m a Texas success story,” Davis told NBC. “I am the epitome of hard work and optimism.”
Well, sort of. The Dallas Morning News decided to check the details of her story. Davis was not a divorced working mother living in a mobile home at age 19. Instead, she was 21, and lived in a trailer for just a short time, then moved in with her mother for a while until moving into her own apartment. At 24, she married Jeff Davis, a lawyer, who helped pay the tuition for her final two years of college, and then cashed out his 401(k) and took out loans to finance her Harvard law degree before she filed for divorce. He also cared for their kids while she was in Cambridge.
The paper interviewed Jeff Davis, who said that Wendy announced she was leaving him the day after the final installment of her tuition loan was paid. (Nice.) She also gave Jeff legal custody of the couple’s youngest daughter while agreeing to pay monthly child support. Her campaign version of Wendy’s “narrative” conveniently leaves out the contribution of her ex-husband to her education and the fact that she gave up her daughter to allow her the freedom to pursue a political career. Nonetheless, the paper bends over backwards to rationalize the omissions with an “everybody does it” spin, noting helpfully that “All campaigns seek to cast their candidate in the most positive light and their opponent in less flattering terms…Using her story to inspire new voters, particularly women, youths and minorities, is a key part of the campaign’s strategy to overcome the state’s heavy Republican bent.”
Ah. So fudging the truth and misrepresenting key facts is acceptable, then.
Responding to the paper’s revelations, Davis explained the chronological errors and incomplete details by saying, “My language should be tighter. I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.” Funny, I thought that precise communication was one of the primary skills taught at Harvard Law School. My own law school experience would indicate that when a well-trained advocate leaves out part of the evidence, it isn’t accidental. Later, after the Abbott campaign predictably and accurately pointed to the Dallas News story to note the Davis was not being transparent with voters about her background, Davis responded with this statement:
“We’re not surprised by Greg Abbott’s campaign attacks on the personal story of my life as a single mother who worked hard to get ahead. But they won’t work, because my story is the story of millions of Texas women who know the strength it takes when you’re young, alone and a mother. I’ve always been open about my life not because my story is unique, but because it isn’t. The truth is that at age 19, I was a teenage mother living alone with my daughter in a trailer and struggling to keep us afloat on my way to a divorce. And I knew then that I was going to have to work my way up and out of that life if I was going to give my daughter a better life and a better future and that’s what I’ve done. I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance. And I guarantee you that anyone who tries to say otherwise hasn’t walked a day in my shoes.”
Abbott is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, so he really doesn’t walk in anyone’s shoes.
“We’re not surprised Republicans have attempted to undermine Wendy Davis’ campaign by calling her past into question – we have seen similar attacks launched against women candidates before. The recent personal attacks on Wendy Davis and her family are blatant attempts to thwart her campaign and undermine her success…Greg Abbott is running scared and for good reason. Senator Davis’ personal story is a compelling narrative of perseverance and hard work that millions of Texans have responded to. It is appalling that Republicans would attack the details of that story rather than focus on the issues affecting Texas families. Disputing the details of Wendy Davis’ life is especially offensive to the many Texas women who can relate to her story. In trying to tear down Senator Davis’ campaign and her personal story, Republicans are also tearing down all Texans who have overcome difficult circumstances. It’s clear Greg Abbott doesn’t understand Wendy Davis’ struggles and the struggles of millions of Texans, nor does he want to.”
How do you rank
politicians A, B, and C
from most unethical to least?
My ranking? Black (B), and by a couple of laps. Then Davis (C), and deLeon (A).
Black is obviously the kind of uncivil, irresponsible and hateful bomb-thrower that we need fewer of in our political process, not more. Davis, while not being nearly as irredeemable as he, is still disappointing, especially in her responses to her own deliberate misrepresentations about who she really is. The last attack from her campaign is especially ominous, and signals that she will lie, and then respond to criticism of the lies by disingenuous rhetorical flourishes and by playing the victim:
- “We’re not surprised Republicans have attempted to undermine Wendy Davis’ campaign…” Well, I would hope not, since you are running against them!
- “….by calling her past into question –…” Her past is legitimately in question, since the candidate intentionally misrepresented it.
- “….we have seen similar attacks launched against women candidates before.” Now pointing out a female candidate’s deceit is somehow inherently sexist, as if exactly the the same wouldn’t be done to any male candidate who similarly fudged his personal history. Dishonest and unfair….and redolent of “If you criticize a black President, you are a racist.”
- “The recent personal attacks on Wendy Davis and her family…” Challenging an incomplete and misleading campaign narrative about a candidate’s family is not a personal attack” on either.
- “…are blatant attempts to thwart her campaign and undermine her success…” Yes, it’s called a campaign, and each candidate traditionally attempts to thwart the other’s campaign and undermine their success. How dare this bad, sexist man try to win against this inspiring woman?
- “Senator Davis’ personal story is a compelling narrative of perseverance and hard work that millions of Texans have responded to.” Especially when the inconvenient details are left out!
- “It is appalling that Republicans would attack the details of that story rather than focus on the issues affecting Texas families.” False dichotomy. And it’s appalling that Republicans would focus on false details when they are false, and when the actual facts were left out to make the bold feminist look more independent and virtuous than she was? Why is that appalling?
- Disputing the details of Wendy Davis’ life is especially offensive to the many Texas women who can relate to her story. In trying to tear down Senator Davis’ campaign and her personal story, Republicans are also tearing down all Texans who have overcome difficult circumstances. It’s clear Greg Abbott doesn’t understand Wendy Davis’ struggles and the struggles of millions of Texans, nor does he want to.” Translation: “We were caught red-handed fudging the aspects of our candidate’s past that show that she used a man to make her inspiring story happen, chose her career over her child at a crucial stage, and is capable of being both ruthless and deceptive. But we think we can distract everyone by crying sexism, and can avoid dealing honestly with the fact that Wendy Davis tried to intentionally misrepresent her personal history, by arguing that it is somehow wrong to point out that “an inspiring story” is not exactly true.”